Yarimar Bonilla, Interim Director of El Centro (Hunter College/CUNY)

Dr. Yarimar Bonilla has been named interim director of CENTRO—Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños [Center for Puerto Rican Studies] at Hunter College/CUNY. A search will be soon underway for permanent director. [For more information, see CENTRO.]

Hunter College President Jennifer J. Raab today announced the appointment of Professor Yarimar Bonilla as Interim Director of El Centro, The Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter/CUNY (el Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños). Dr. Bonilla, Professor of Africana & Puerto Rican/Latino Studies in the Anthropology Department, will be the first woman to head Centro in its 48-year-history. She will assume the post following the retirement of longtime director Dr. Edwin Meléndez, which takes effect June 30. Hunter will conduct a national search with a diverse and inclusive search committee for a permanent director for El Centro.

President Raab commented: “We are delighted that the highly accomplished Yarimar Bonilla will be building on the legacy of Edwin Meléndez to advance Centro’s mission in support of scholarship and engagement on issues vital to Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican diaspora. “In Yarimar, we welcome a leader who has always combined scholarship and activism in her work. She brings to Centro a deep understanding of Caribbean cultures in general and the Puerto Rican community in particular—and a commitment to research, educating students, utilizing new technologies, and advocating around pressing issues on the island and the mainland.”

Continued President Raab: “Edwin Meléndez has made an enormous impact in his 13 years at Centro, leaving an admirable legacy on which Yarimar and the Center can now build. On behalf of the entire college, I want to thank Edwin for his remarkable achievements. We are delighted that, following a well-deserved one-year sabbatical, he will return to Hunter’s Urban Affairs and Planning faculty where he will continue his vital efforts to study economic development and the process of recovery in Puerto Rico.”

[. . .] Dr. Bonilla, who joined the faculty in 2018, was born in San Juan and spent part of her childhood in Topeka and Phoenix before returning to Puerto Rico at the age of 12. She received her BA from the University of Puerto Rico, an MA from the University of New Mexico, and a PhD from the University of Chicago. She previously taught at the University of Virginia and Rutgers. In 2018 she was named a Carnegie Fellowship for her research on the social impact of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

“I look forward to working through this moment of transition with the different constituencies that Centro serves,” said Dr. Bonilla. “I am proud to be part of the ever-evolving Puerto Rican community of New York and excited to build Centro’s connections with its community roots. Centro’s mission has never been more urgent as Puerto Rico faces the compounding effects of economic, political, and environmental health crises, which in turn reverberate across the diaspora. “Given that my focus has long been on public-facing scholarship that pushes beyond the confines of the academy, I am particularly eager to grow the interdisciplinary scope of Centro. In particular, I want to create more opportunities for artists to use the archives and develop their work in dialogue with the CUNY community. I also want to forge partnerships with our scientific community who have so much to tell us as we navigate a post-disaster and post-pandemic future. [. . .]

Dr. Yarimar Bonilla is a Professor in Hunter’s Department of Africana & Puerto Rican/Latino Studies, and in the Anthropology Department at the CUNY Graduate Center. She is an award-winning scholar and prominent public intellectual, Dr. Bonilla is a major voice on issues of Caribbean and Latinx politics. She has contributed to the New Yorker, The Nation, and the Washington Post, writes a monthly column called “En Vavién” [sic. “En vaivén”] for Puerto Rico’s newspaper El Nuevo Día, and is frequently heard on National Public Radio and television programs such as Democracy Now. Most recently, she contributed an episode to WNYC’S new bilingual radio series about Puerto Rico, La Brega.

She has written for scholarly journals on such subjects as the role of digital protest in the Black Lives Matter movement, post-disaster impacts in contemporary Puerto Rico, and anti-colonial labor struggles in the French Caribbean.

She is the author of the books Non-Sovereign Futures: French Caribbean Politics in the Wake of Disenchantment (2015); Aftershocks of Disaster: Puerto Rico Before and After the Storm (2019); and the forthcoming Trouillot Remixed (2021). Her digital projects include Visualizing Sovereignty: Animated Video of Caribbean Political History, which she co-designed, and the Puerto Rico Syllabus Project (#PRSyllabus), which she co-created to provide an open access resource for teaching and learning about the socio-economic crises affecting Puerto Rico.

[Shown above: Yarimar Bonilla, left, in conversation with The New York Times correspondent Francis Robles.]

For more information, see https://centropr.hunter.cuny.edu/

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